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PGA Tour toughens tests, Rory McIlroy talks Saudi meeting | Monday Finish

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Scottie Scheffler, his wife Meredith and their son Bennett coming off No. 18 at Muirfield Village.

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Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re double-mowing our front yard. It’s U.S. Open week! Let’s get to the news.

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And now, over to 14.

GOLF STUFF I LIKE

Are we getting major championship tests…every week?

As Xander Schauffele addressed the media last Tuesday ahead of the Memorial Tournament, he admitted he was bracing himself for exhaustion. In part he was still worn out from winning (and celebrating) his first major championship. But this is also a part of the schedule where the Tour (and its superintendents) are bringing the heat. And growing the rough.

Think back to Quail Hollow, where Schauffele got outdueled by Rory McIlroy on a challenging setup that featured juicy rough, firm greens and swirling winds. Brutally hard. By week’s end there were just three scores better than six under par.

Then came PGA week, typically one of the toughest on the schedule. But soft conditions and relatively mild rough meant Valhalla actually yielded one of the easier scoring tests of the year.

A couple “regular” Tour events followed but those were tough, too, including pros tackling the rock-hard new greens at Colonial Country Club, where only winner Davis Riley cracked double-digits under par. Definitely hard.

And then the cream of the crop arrived in Dublin, Ohio for the Memorial Tournament, where Schauffele provided a succinct appraisal of the test: “The course is in great shape. It’s really hard. The rough is like, the most dense I’ve ever seen, so a lot of work to do.” Hard. But good. Welcome to the Tour.

Muirfield Village’s greens began the week relatively soft but things got quickly tougher as the week wore on; by Sunday they’d firmed up, the target sizes on landing areas had shrunk to nearly nothing and the scoring average ballooned to nearly 75. The harder the greens get, the harder the greens get.

But there’s a reason we like things tough — it tends to identify a fitting champion! Unsurprisingly it was the best player who survived the toughest test best; Scottie Scheffler emerged the winner at just 8 under par. Only 11 golfers finished the week in red figures.

“What we want as players is to be rewarded for good shots and punished for bad ones. Today was one of those days where I felt like the rewards for good shots were appropriate, and the punishments for bad shots were just severe enough. It was a good test,” said Scheffler.

That’s what we want as fans, too. I guess I should speak for myself: that’s what I want as a fan, to see players challenged and tested and rewarded and punished and separated. It’s made for satisfying viewing these last few weeks and it’s no wonder that winners like Scheffler and McIlroy have emerged. But it was interesting seeing a PGA Championship-style test the week before the PGA Championship, and now we’ve had a U.S. Open-style test the week before the U.S. Open. Perhaps we’ll get another the week after, too.

“I hear the rough is up over in Connecticut as well, so I feel like it’s going to be a really interesting stretch,” Schauffele said of the Travelers Championship site, which will host a Signature Event next week. “Actually, the U.S. Open might have the least amount of rough out of all the places we’re playing the next three weeks, which sounds wrong.”

Time will tell if this is too much all at once, if players are beaten down by the time they arrive in Hartford and if it dilutes Signature Events to have them on the shoulders of majors. But in the meantime? Enjoy the viewing. Pinehurst will look, feel and play different than anything we see on Tour. And what we see on Tour is, of late, exceeding expectations. Top pros being tested at every turn? Pressure-cooker pars winning golf tournaments? That’s golf stuff I like.

WINNERS

Who won the week?

Scottie Scheffler won the Memorial, ending a lengthy two-tournament drought. The title was his first as a father and — unrelated — his first victory since complete exoneration.

Linn Grant won the Scandinavian Mixed — a cosanctioned event between the DP World Tour and Ladies European Tour — in particularly dramatic fashion. She chipped in on No. 18 to finish off a final-round 65. As she waited on the range post-round, fellow Swede Sebastian Soderberg horseshoed a two-footer at No. 18 to post 77, give away his eight-shot lead and hand Grant the title.

With her first Scandinavian Mixed win in 2022, Grant became the first woman to win on the DP World Tour. With Sunday’s victory, she’s the first woman to win twice.

Another Swede, Linnea Strom, came storming back from T52 with a final-round 60 to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic. She teed off at 8:20 a.m., required just 20 putts and watched all afternoon as one score after another came in behind her. None finished better.

Carlos Ortiz won LIV’s Houston event for his first victory on the circuit, while the Cleeks took home their first team title.

And Ernie Els won for the second consecutive week on the PGA Tour Champions, beating Steve Stricker in a playoff at the American Family Championship.

NOT-WINNERS

But not losers, either.

Collin Morikawa is back. While he didn’t quite complete his chasedown of Scottie Scheffler on Sunday, he shot a final-round 71 to cut a four-shot deficit to just one.

Morikawa reunited with his lifelong swing coach Rick Sessinghaus just before the Masters and while correlation and causation are hard to prove, he’s been on a tear ever since. T3 at the Masters. Ninth at the RBC Heritage. A respectable T16 at the Wells Fargo. T4 from the final Sunday pairing at the PGA. Fourth at the Charles Schwab. And now a runner-up finish at the Memorial. Morikawa said it’s been a lot of fun finding himself in these final pairings again after some time away. But he also sounded like a man with a chip on his shoulder.

“I mean, I feel like I’m always under the radar, so I just kind of show up and do my thing,” he said. “Look, I’m not flashy by any means. The golf game doesn’t spurt out long drives or crazy putting or whatever. But I just kind of find a way to get it done and that’s kind of what I’ve stayed true to.”

We’d recommend he sticks with it.

SHORT HITTERS

Saudi stuff you should know, in brief.

-The PGA Tour’s transaction subcommittee conducted its first in-person meeting with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the backers of LIV Golf.

Tiger Woods was among the Tour side’s in-person attendees in New York City, while PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan attended, too.

Rory McIlroy dialed into the call from Ohio and described it as “very productive, very constructive, very collaborative”.

-The sides have been meeting remotely to discuss a potential investment in the PGA Tour, McIlroy said. But this three-hour session focused more specifically on the future of professional golf.

-One McIlroy takeaway might seem obvious but has been a point of contention throughout the LIV/PGA Tour saga: the PIF is interested in financial return.

“That’s what they want. It doesn’t seem like they’re getting that at the minute within golf,” he said, referencing LIV’s current balance sheet. “And this — hopefully if things progress and we get to a certain point, then hopefully they see a future where that can happen, they can start to get some returns on their money.’’

-The PGA Tour confirmed in a statement that the sides had met, that “more progress was made” and referenced “a shared vision on the future of professional golf.” 

ONE DUMB GRAPHIC

This made me laugh:

ONE SWING THOUGHT

From Collin Morikawa.

“I just got in this little rut … because I wasn’t feeling out the shots, I was just playing numbers in my head trying to do this math equation instead of actually being an artist and playing shots.”

ONE BIG QUESTION

What can we expect from Tiger Woods?

Because typical U.S. Open setups are particularly taxing on the body, analysts have assumed Tiger Woods and his national championship won’t be a great match the rest of his career — with the exception of this week at Pinehurst, where he could get around on short-game, guile and creativity.

But Woods’ short game was part of what let him down at Valhalla, where he admitted after missing the cut that he needs more tournament reps to get his game ready but isn’t sure his body can handle any more. I’m forever a Woods optimist, so I say he makes the cut this week — but he hasn’t yet shown he’s ready to handle four rounds of tournament golf. Let’s hope this is the week that changes.

ONE THING TO WATCH

Wyndham’s turnaround.

How’d last year’s U.S. Open champ go from No. 300 in the world to No. 3? By making these three dramatic changes:

NEWS FROM SEATTLE

Monday Finish HQ.

We completed (survived?) our first cross-country flight with our four-month-old baby this week. I have about a billion takeaways, but one of ‘em is this: anytime the flight attendant disturbs a sleeping baby with a blaring credit-card promo they should be arrested. Or at the very least that baby’s parents get a free drink.

Can’t wait to watch the U.S. Open with you all. I’ll meet you back here next Monday — or in your email inbox with special green graphics. But only if you subscribe below!

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We’ll see you next week.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

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